by YES! Staff

Developments across the Triad and beyond, compiled by Keith T. Barber and Jordan Green

Witnesses recant testimony

Two witnesses whose testimony implicated Kalvin Michael Smith in the 1995 assault on Jill Marker, a store clerk at the Silk Plant Forest, admitted during a hearing in the courtroom of Judge Richard Doughton in Winston-Salem on Monday that they lied under oath. The purpose of the hearing was to determine if newly uncovered evidence merits a new trial for Smith, who was convicted in 1997 and is currently serving a sentence of 23 to 29 years. Eugene Littlejohn said he lied when he testified at the 1997 trial that he entered the Silk Plant Forest with Smith in December 2005 and saw Smith put his hands on Marker. Littlejohn said Detective Donald Williams, the lead investigator in the case, coerced him into making false statement by threatening him with jail time. “I was scared of being locked up for something I didn’t know nothing about,” Littlejohn said in response to a question from Smith’s attorney David Pishko. Pamela Moore, another witness for the state, said Winston- Salem police investigators promised that her two pending misdemeanor charges would be dropped if she falsely testified she heard Smith say he had to “beat down” a woman to get out of a store. During cross-examination, it was revealed the charges against Moore were dropped in 1998. The hearing is expected to conclude on Wednesday.  — KTB

Wells Fargo acquires Wachovia

Wells Fargo & Co. announced on Jan. 1 that it had completed its merger with Wachovia, creating the nation’s largest financial services company. The San Francisco-based bank first announced its takeover of Wachovia, a Winston-Salem institution since the 1890s that is currently headquartered in Charlotte, for $12.7 billion in stock on Oct. 3, just days after Wachovia had announced its intention to sell its assets to Citigroup for $1 a share. Wachovia’s assets are estimated at $812.4 billion with a market capitalization of $33.5 billion, according to a company press release. Wells Fargo now ranks first in the nation in community banking with 6,650 stores from coast-to-coast. Wells Fargo ranks No. 2 in the nation in bank deposits, serves 48 million customers at 6,650 stores and boasts 276,000 employees. Wachovia shareholders received 0.1991 shares of Wells Fargo common stock in exchange for each share of Wachovia common stock they owned — a value of $7 a share based on Wells Fargo’s closing stock price on Oct. 2. Wachovia spokesperson Christine Shaw declined to comment on the effects of the merger will have on more than 3,000 Wachovia employees working in the Winston-Salem area when the takeover was officially announced in October. — KTB

Former police chief sues city

A civil suit filed on Jan. 2 by David Wray contends that City Manager Mitchell Johnson and the city of Greensboro discriminated against the former Greensboro police chief, based on his race, which is white, and deprived him of his civil rights. The lawsuit claims that Wray is entitled to defense and indemnification in connection with lawsuits filed against him by two black police officers, and that the former chief has been damaged in excess of $10,000. The lawsuit notes that the two preceding chiefs, along with Wray’s successor, are black. “As chief, David Wray emphasized discipline and required integrity from both African-American and white officers, regardless of whether the action was popular,” the lawsuit maintains, adding that “consistent with the city’s affirmative action commitment, David Wray actively promoted in rank both female and African-American officers, more in fact than either of his predecessors in the office.” The lawsuit continues by stating that Wray “was made aware of information concerning certain African-American officers, which called into question their judgment, integrity, attention to duty, and understanding of the responsibilities of their positions.” The lawsuit alleges that “Mitchell Johnson knew or should have known that [allegations of discrimination against black officers] were unfounded, Mitchell Johnson reacted to allegations of racially motivated conduct by seeking to placate certain members of the African-American community, [Lt. James] Hinson, and the complaining African-American officers. Toward that end, Johnson set about a course of conduct intended to result in reinstatement of Hinson, termination or forcing David Wray from his position as chief of police, and appointment of an African-American officer as chief.” — JG

WSPD redeploys officers, increases number of beats

The Winston-Salem Police Department increased its number of beats on Monday from 18 to 24, as part of a revised police deployment plan. The police department has divided the city into three geographic regions, each with two zones and four beats per zone. Each beat has been reduced to two square miles. Patrol officers will now switch to permanent beat and shift assignments instead of rotating beat assignments. The change is designed to increase officers’ familiarity with citizens and businesses, Chief Scott Cunningham said. Under the new plan, one officer will be completely responsible for a smaller beat during their shift. “We’ll expect them to build relationships with the citizens, to find out what the problems are and to reduce crime and solve problems. This will create accountability and ownership on the part of the police officer, and allow citizens to know who their officer is,” Cunningham said. The new plan will not require any additional patrol officers. “If we manage this properly we will see a reduction in crime — not just a stabilization, but an actual reduction in crime,” Cunningham said. — KTB

State will benefit from Mattel lawsuit

Last month, NC Attorney General Roy Cooper announced that toymaker Mattel agreed to pay the state of North Carolina $262,126 in damages as part of a $12 million settlement with 38 states. The agreement comes after a massive recall of Mattel toys in 2007 which sparked the attorneys general’s investigation, according to Cooper’s website. Under the agreement, Mattel and its subsidiary Fisher Price will follow tougher standards for accessible lead in toys. In the fall of 2007, the Consumer Product Safety Commission recalled approximately 2 million Mattel and Fisher-Price toys manufactured in China because of concerns that the toys contained excessive lead. At the time of the recalls, federal standards called for lead levels in accessible surface coatings to not exceed 600 parts per million. According to the attorneys general’s investigation, tests of some of the recalled toys found lead levels of more than 10,000 parts per million and 50,000 parts per million. The agreement, reached days before Christmas, requires stricter standards for toys manufactured after Nov. 30. Congress enacted the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act to tighten the standards for lead in surface coatings and substrates beginning in February. — KTB

Crime snapshot of Winston-Salem

Thirty neighborhood-watch groups reported nearly 300 crimes to the Winston-Salem Police Department in the month of December, according to the city’s website. The neighborhood watch groups — divided into three regions — reported 84 incidents of breaking and entering (including motor vehicle break-ins), 81 assaults, 51 incidents of vandalism, 40 larcenies, 22 drug violations, four DUI’s and three robberies during the month. The police department has not yet issued its annual statistical report for 2008. The department’s 2007 annual report revealed a 2.6 percent increase in the number of complaint calls from the previous year. The 2007 report highlighted a 19-percent increase in the city’s murder rate, a 4.3-percent increase in the number of rapes and robberies, and a nearly 16-percent increase in the number of aggravated assaults from 2006. Early indications show violent crime statistics may have decreased in 2008. On Dec. 13, Winston-Salem police arrested Anthony Harden and charged him with first-degree murder in the shooting death of Adrian Rorie. It was the city’s 20th homicide of 2008. The city of Winston-Salem suffered 25 reported homicides the previous year. — KTB

Constituent services

The office of Rep. Howard Coble, who represents North Carolina’s 6th Congressional District and was recently elected to his 12 th term, announced that the 77-year-old lawmaker planned to be in Greensboro at 4:15 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 2 to tape an announcement for Rock 92. JG